Tag Archive

My review of the NREL Western Wind and Solar Integration Study

ByGroovy Green Dec 7, 2010

The NREL/GE Energy WWSIS study appears to be built on several questionable assumptions, each allowing the modeled system (of up to 30% wind/5% solar in the West Connect within the great Western Interconnect) to withstand the inherent difficulties of large scale renewable integration. The primary issue, consistent with my dissertation research, is that the authors assume that we can afford to massively overbuild the capacity of the system, adding the large percentages of renewable generation on top of newly built and existing plants. This allows one to be able to ignore the hourly or sub-hourly periods with extremely low output from renewables, as well as the days or weeks at a time during the summer when wind production is well below yearly average output levels. An ample reserve is at the ready to step in when renewables perform poorly. Secondly and equally important, the authors assume that coal plants, which have traditionally run in a base load capacity, will be able to be operated very flexibly – on par with combined cycle gas plants.

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Solar-Powered Sleeve Coming To iPhone, Blackberry, Other Mobile Handhelds

ByGroovy Green Jul 29, 2009

We’ve seen plenty of solar-charger accessories for mobile phones and other gadgets, but this is the first one that appears to attach seamlessly. Created by product design firm MotionTouch for a company called Powcell, this solar-powered sleeve slides onto the back of a mobile phone handset and uses light to charge the unit.

The large solar panel provides the greatest surface area for light-capture and maximises the sleeve’s efficiency, including working in some ambient light conditions. And Powcell continues to charge its internal battery even when removed from the phone – so when reconnected it provides talk-time even if the device battery is exhausted.

Ahead of full production the sleeve has attracted considerable interest from major phone manufacturers, which have even approached Powcell about sleeves for future, yet-to-launch models of their phones.

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Enjoy A Private Solar Shower In This Personal Pop-Up Tent

ByGroovy Green Jun 19, 2009

Enjoy solar showers, but really want to be completely naked in the process? Unless you’re in a nudist colony, that option might be not available on a public beach. However, this innovative (and stylish) pop-up privacy tent from Guide Gear will hide your bits and bops while giving you a clean, hot rinse. The 6.5 lb tent is quick to setup and includes a 5-gallon PVC Solar Shower. Said one recent reviewer:

Our family has always been more on the “minimal” side for car camping trips, but with my 23 year old daughter and her friends along on our recent trip, we needed a shower. We bought a Zodi water heater and this pop up shower tent. Great decision! The tent pops up in a second, nothing to put together and added almost no weight or bulk to our gear. The olive green material provided total coverage, blended nicely with the outdoor terrain, and had plenty of room for big guys. The 3 adjustments we made were adding a clip/clothespin to attach the shower head to the top, a chair right outside to hang towel and clothes (it cannot support much weight), and a large plastic pan to stand on. With those items, we had eight of us showering daily with no hitch.

That being said, you could also just go and jump in the nearest river. While this item is indeed handy, it may just be another piece of “baggage” that’s rather unnecessary when camping. To each their own, however — you be the judge.

Developing Rooftops for Solar Power

ByGroovy Green Apr 15, 2009

It has come to my attention recently that the real estate trust Prologis is developing the rooftops of their existing buildings by contracting to lease the space to power companies to install solar panels.

From the press release:

Headquartered in Denver, Colo., as a manager and developer of real estate, ProLogis is actively seeking out electric utilities to lease out its rooftops as a way to earn extra income with no capital investment, while meeting the company’s goal of contributing to global sustainability.

As a real estate investment trust, ProLogis isn’t interested in owning the solar installations, but rather in engaging utilities as a renter of its space. Utilities make solid tenants that will enter long-term leases, as most power-purchase agreements for solar power generation are for 15 to 20 years.
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Another Homeowners Association Slams Attempt To Go Solar

ByGroovy Green Oct 21, 2008

Homeowners Associations have got to be one of the more inane aspects of American society. A friend of mine moved into a neighborhood with one, completely unprepared for the mess she was getting into. Now, no toys can be left outside, all cars must be kept in the garage at all times, the grass must be a certain height and color, and every change to the home must first be approved by a “board”. It’s both a hilarious and sad way that some choose to live — all for the sake of homogeneity in aesthetics.

In March of 2007, we reported on an incident where the town of Scarsdale denied a family the opportunity to put up solar panels — on the basis that they were ugly and “not in keeping with the character of the community”. It was BS then — and it’s still BS. Now, another homeowners association in California is denying one man’s quest to reduce his electric bill by installing solar panels on his roof. Their reason? They do not believe the technology fits in with their rules and guidelines of a community with “restrained elegance.”

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New Cruise Ship Designed With Solar, Efficiency In Mind

ByGroovy Green Sep 26, 2008

A new ship from Celebrity Cruises, currently about 80% complete, is being built with eco-friendly technology and design in ever phase of construction. Personally, I find cruises to be one of the most wasteful and benign ways to travel — but they’re not going away, and this development is welcome.

The company actually designed the hull of the ship first — a radical departure from conventional cruise ship construction where things are generally created “top down,” with passenger space configured first, then the hull constructed to fit that space. As a result, the hull is one of the most fuel-efficient possible and the rest of the ship was configured to work around it.

There will also be 80 solar panels on board to power small things such as elevators. The company acknowledges that solar is not currently a cost-effective addition, but add that as prices decrease, the infrastructure will be in place on board to carry more photovoltaics. The hope is that over time, the ship will utilize more clean energy in its consumption.

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The Neuton Electric Lawn Mower Kicks Some Serious Grass

ByGroovy Green Sep 10, 2008

UPDATE: Ecorazzi is now giving away a Neuton in celebration of their two year anniversary. One person will be chosen at random.]

Before I start this review, you should know that I have a love/hate relationship with lawns. Living in the Northeast, they’re a necessary evil when one has not yet shifted an entire backyard to something built on permaculture. On the other hand, a recently cut lawn does look beautiful and sharp — something drilled into my head from summers of mowing other lawns to make cash in High School.

When my lawn turns colors from a lack of rain, I do not get out the sprinkler. I consider it a vacation from the weekly chore of mowing. If weeds or other variants of grass make their presence known, I consider them compliments to the scenery. It amuses/depresses me to no end the amount of resources Americans spend on the upkeep of lawns across the US — especially in places where grass has no business growing in the first place.

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Second-Generation Solar Trees To Be Even More Awesome Than Real Trees

ByGroovy Green Jul 24, 2008

Much praise has been heaped upon designer Ross Lovegrove since his solar trees first debuted in Vienna in October 2007. Essentially a solar-powered streetlamp — but also a work of art — the structure creates, as the designer puts it, “complex natural forms in a city that can benefit all of society.” They also save energy — and have managed to survive Vienna’s dark spells, with light still being generated even after four days without direct sun. From the article,

“When we were setting up the tree outside it was quite wonderful,” Lovegrove said. “Even when we had one stem, it was incredible, it seemed so insignificant but actually it really stood out and it proves this point that modern technology and design can really lift people’s spirits, it becomes an eye catcher because it’s sort of out of context. The Solar Tree is just a streetlamp but actually some of the small things which can have a big impact on our life are all open for reinterpretation.”

With the first-generation lamps firmly planted on some of Europe’s most famous streets, Lovegrove is now planning on the next-generation design. It will be called the “Adaptive Solar Tree” and, just like the real thing, will feature robotics that seek out sunlight or respond to changes in weather.

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Don’t Pin Your Hopes on a “Green” Economy

ByGroovy Green Jul 16, 2008

Both presidential candidates have stumped for a new “green” economy.  To me this smells of the supposed transformation to the “information economy” touted only a decade ago.  Fortune had this to say on June 30th:

What senators McCain and Obama believe about U.S. energy policy matters – hugely. To fight global warming, the next President will oversee the transition to a new, green economy , which will result in one of the biggest business transformations of the 21st century and potentially one of the largest transfers of wealth since the creation of the income tax.

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Smaller, Smarter Inverters Equal Cheaper Solar, Greater Efficiency

ByGroovy Green Jan 30, 2008

One the largest hurdles to people and businesses embracing solar energy is the cost. The panels themselves make up a great deal of total expense, but there are also additional components to consider to get that energy working with your home. The most common accessory to any good solar installation is the inverter. This piece of equipment converts the solar panel’s DC energy to AC. A new firm called Enphase Energy hopes to remove this cost and produce micro-inverters; so small that each panel will receive their own. From the article,

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The Venturi Astrolabe: A Street-Legal Formula One Solar Car

ByGroovy Green Sep 21, 2007

With a top speed over over 70mph and a range of almost an equivalent amount, the Veunturi solar car allows you to draw stares while commuting to work in Formula One style. 3.6 sqm of photovoltaic cells operating at 21% efficiency work to power what is considered the first ever commercial vehicle that’s capable of using absolutely no fossil resources. From the site,

“Capable of working with very little energy (16 kWc motor) and of recharging even when in motion, this vehicle of another era does not need to be permanently exposed to the sun in order to move. Its last-generation NiMH Venturi NIV-7 batteries ‘liquid cooled’ in fact enable it to restitute stored energy, whether solar or from the electricity supply, making it the first electro-solar hybrid vehicle. To attain this level of performance while using very little energy, Astrolab has been designed like a Formula 1 : its carbon monocoque chassis is ultra-light and serves as an oversized protection cell ensuring the safety of its occupants in the event of a collision. Its profile recalls the aqua-dynamic design of great racing yachts.”

Yum.

Solar (Assisted) Electric Boat Navigates the Erie Canal

ByGroovy Green Sep 13, 2007

This news story caught my eye during the busy month of August. While electric cars have been the talk of the green blogosphere over the last year, this is the first instance I’ve heard of electric boating.On August 12, the Tamarack Lake Boating company launched “The Loon” a pontoon boat with 738 watts of solar panels mounted on its cover, and a 30 mile range on its 48 Volt deep-cycle battery array. (Syracuse.com)

With the flick of a switch, Canadian boat builder Monte Gisborne turned on his solar-powered pontoon boat, The Loon, and quietly slipped out of Oswego Harbor.

“It’s beautiful. It’s my first time on this canal and it’s beautiful,” Gisborne said as The Loon approached the Minetto Bridge. “The sky is clear, there’s a nice breeze blowing and people along the shoreline are waving I couldn’t be happier.”

The 12-day journey will take the Gisbornes – Monte is accompanied by his wife, Denise,
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Town Decrees Solar Panels Ugly, Family Fights Back

ByGroovy Green Mar 27, 2007

I always find amusing the rules that some of my friends around the country must abide by when living in community housing developments. Your grass can only be so high, children’s toys must be kept to a minimum outside, your house can only be certain shades of color, etc. etc. It’s a frightening utopia of meaningless laws and trivial worry. When I heard that the town of Scarsdale denied a family the opportunity to put up solar panels — on the basis that they were ugly and “not in keeping with the character of the community” — I immediately wanted to cry/laugh. You have got to be kidding me.

But then I thought that such reactions are probably not too uncommon. We live in a world with designer water, designer shampoo, and animal spas. People have become so accustomed to modular cookie-cutter homes with white picket-fences and weed-free sidewalks — that they’ve actually forgotten there’s a world of people out there who could care less and actually would like to live a unique existence; with character and vision for their own lives. So, when you move to a place like Scarsdale, and they deny you the ability to lead that existence based on the above criteria, what do you do? You call their bullshit and fight back. From the article,

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Citizenre PV: Coming to a Roof Near You?

ByGroovy Green Jan 6, 2007

Imagine if to go wireless, mobile phones companies made you purchase a kit to install your own tower for $8k, and then shipped you a box of minuscule widgets and a soldering gun that you have to somehow assemble into a Razor. I’m pretty sure the market density of cell phones would be about as weak as that of PV, because that is the marketing strategy that Solar Energy is currently operating under.

ce_logo1Now imagine you could sign a contract, and have clean, green solar energy installed at your home by professionals and pay a nominal monthly fee based on your usage with no initial outlay. Tempted? The Citizenre Corporation is counting on it. What they are offering is the chance for average Americans to have the privilege of a Solar Array on their roof. According to their website it will be as simple as having one of their technicians do a site assessment, the signing of a 1,5,or 25 year forward rental agreement (FRA) and a safety deposit of $500 (reasonable for $25k in equipment!). At the signing of the agreement you will lock in your current cost per KwH and pay Citizenre that amount for any watts their equipment sends into your home thru an interconnected inverter. For anyone who is remotely Eco Aware this is Earth Shattering. But that elation is followed immediately by “where’s the catch?”. Talk to a REnU rep and they answer simply “there is none!”. Hmmm.

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40.7 Percent Efficient Solar Cell Announced By DOE

ByGroovy Green Dec 7, 2006

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.

(Emphasis definitely freakin’ mine.)

Not to out do Kevin’s exuberance, this is definitely a huge deal. $3 per watt to install? A 62% reduction in installation cost for PV panels?

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Spain: Solar Panels Required On All New And Renovated Buildings

ByGroovy Green Nov 16, 2006

Photovoltaic cells on top of someone’s roof will no longer be a sight of interest for people visiting or living in Spain. In fact, they’re simply going to become part of the building code thanks to new legislation that requires all new or renovated buildings to offset “between 30 and 70 percent of hot water costs with the sun.”

From the article,

“New non-residential buildings, such as shopping centers and hospitals, now have to have photovoltaic panels to generate a proportion of their electricity. Other measures in the new building code enforce the use of better insulation, improve the maintenance of heating and cooling systems and increase the use of natural light.

“The new standards will bring energy savings of 30 to 40 percent for each building and a reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy consumption of 40 to 55 percent,” the Environment and Housing Ministries said in a joint statement.”

Wow. If I was an investor in Solar technology, I would be all over the companies bidding for contracts in Spain after this announcement. The question is, what kind of pressures will this place on the industry such that demand will outstrip supply? Quality silicon for solar panels are already in short supply. I wonder if a delay of this kind would delay the entire renovation or construction of a new building?

Northern Ireland Mandates Green Energy For New Buildings

ByGroovy Green Jul 31, 2006

Now this is a little more like it. It’s amazing what can occur when an actual government gets behind renewable energy. In a step that’s sure to please environmentalists while making RE investors salivate, the ‘Government is proposing changes to the Building Regulations which will make the use of renewable energy compulsory in all new builds from 2008′ The new changes will apply to all new homes, company, and public buildings making solar hot water, roof photovoltaics, and small wind generation madatory in under two years.

Almost four thousand households will benefit immediately from the new systems. Those families on low incomes will also receive 100% grant assistance to install solar hot water systems for more than 500 homes. From the article,

‘Launching an 8 million renewable energy Household Programme, Peter Hain said that Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the United Kingdom in green energy. I Am fully committed to the use of renewable energy and I know how effective it can be. In my home in Wales, I have installed PV panels on my roof and this has resulted in my energy bill being halved. As a Government, we are also moving forward in changes to the building regulations to help and encourage greater use of renewable energy.’

China To Invest $200 Billion In Renewable Energy Within 15 Years

ByGroovy Green Jul 15, 2006

Can you imagine if the U.S. posted that type of initiative? Hey! You in the back that still believes the U.S. is the smartest country in the world, sit down. China’s economy isn’t the only thing roaring to life. Their renewable energy initiatives are quickly eclipsing anything close to what the U.S. is considering and American companies are eager to partner up and get a piece of the action. Sadly, if the U.S. does eventually wake up, most suppliers will probably be tied up in China! From the article,

“Beijing wants a tenth of its energy to come from environmentally friendly sources by 2010 – a desire driven by soaring air pollution and chronic environmental degradation that is swelling medical bills and provoking discontent.
Projects will need turbines, blades and other power components, which is why General Electric Co, Vestas Wind Systems and Gamesa, as well as homegrown firms China Solar Energy Holdings Ltd. and Suntech, are expanding capacity in the country. “Renewable energy will likely become China’s next boom sector with oil at historical high prices,” said Norman Ho, a fund manager at Value Partners, which has invested in Chinese wind energy components supplier Nanjing Gearbox.”

Wind developers in all areas from manufacturing to design have got to be especially pleased; the compound annual growth rate of China’s wind power capacity will be 39% in 2004-10 and 20% in 2010-20! Hit the jump for more!

Trade In Your Cell Phone or PDA, Receive A TerraPass Gift Certificate!

ByGroovy Green Jun 21, 2006

Cell phones are cool and all–but most people simply shove them in a drawer–or worse–chuck ‘em when they’re finished. In fact, almost 130 million surplus cellphones are created each year in America–weighing in at clost to 65,000 tons! Well, TerraPass has some up with a unique way of solving this problem by partnering up with RIPMobile. From the press release, “RIPMobile recycles used cell phones and PDAs. They also happen to be leaders in their industry for environmental best practices. Unlike many recyclers, RIPMobile will accept any used cell phone, regardless of economic value. They’ll even pay your postage. RIPMobile handles all materials according to EPA standards and in compliance with the stringent requirements of the Basel Action Network.” The great thing about this new partnership is that TerraPass will pay you in gift certificates for your old phones. So, if you’ve been delaying off-setting your SUV with some carbon credits, now’s your chance to kill two birds with one stone! Almost every phone will net you some type of value–from a lowly old Motorola for $2 to a new RAZR for $75. (My expired Samsung came in at $32–not too shabby!). Check it out at TerraPass and–while your’re there–get that car taken care of!